Published by the Humanitarian Policy Group in December 2013, Talking to the Other Side –Humanitarian Negotiations with Al-Shabaab in Somalia is an in-depth study that sheds light on dynamics and details of negotiations between aid organizations and Al-Shabaab, primarily between 2008 and the famine of 2011. It provides historical context to the impossible choices facing aid agencies and details how both Al-Shabaab and the actions of donor governments ex
In 2011, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published a landmark study, To Stay and Deliver, which documented practices of humanitarian organizations delivering aid -- particularly in highly insecure environments. The report’s main objective was to propel a shift from humanitarian organizations asking “when do we have to leave” a conflict area to “how do we stay” for those who need us the most.
In August 2017, Chatham House’s International Security Department and International Law Programme issued a report -- Recommendations for Reducing Tensions in the Interplay Between Sanctions, Counterterrorism Measures and Humanitarian Action -- that identifies concrete ways for all stakeholders to address the issue.
Often, sanctioned or terrorist-designated groups control areas of humanitarian need. The legal prohibitions regarding these groups can include incidental payments that humanitarian actors may need to make in order to operate. Continuous engagement between the international, state, banking and humanitarian sectors is critical to alleviating the tension, the report states. It asserts that systematically adopted exemptions in UN and EU sanctions regimes are the most effective way to ensure that restrictions do not apply to humanitarian action. Currently, only one conflict-related UN Security Council sanctions regime includes this type of exemption.
The effect of derisking on nonprofit organizations (NPOs) was raised during the first of what is hoped to be several Congressional hearings on derisking was held by the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee on February 15.
Titled “Examining De-Risking and Its Effect on Access to Financial Services” the hearing centered largely on Operation Choke Point, a former government program that resulted in the closure of accounts of businesses in a handful of sectors, including payday lenders and gun dealers. Two members of the subcommittee, however, specifically addressed how derisking has impacted NPOs and consequently, the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-TX) formally introduced statements submitted by Charity & Security Network, the Global Center on Cooperative Security, and John Byrne, formerly of the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists and the co-facilitator of a multi-stakeholder dialogue on derisking and NPOs.
Over the last decade counterterrorism measures (CTMs) like the Patriot Act are having a direct and adverse impact on humanitarian action conducted by aid agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a July 2013 study finds. Commissioned by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the study, titled Study of the Impact of Donor Counter-Terrorism Measures on Principled Humanitarian Action, examines CTMs in the U.S., European Union and several other countries and determined that they unduly restrict aid programs, increase risks for aid workers, limit funding sources, and undermine partnerships with local NGOs. International pressure on governments from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to adopt overly-restrictive regulations of NGOs to prevent terrorist financing also draws scrutiny in the study. The release announcement said, "The major conclusion is that the humanitarian community and donor States need to work more closely together to better reconcile counter-terrorism measures and humanitarian action." In September NRC and OCHA will host an event in New York to initiate such discussions.
August 19 is World Humanitarian Day, another reminder of the need to alleviate suffering. This year, more than ever, we look to four countries on the brink of famine - Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Unfortunately, for a significant number of U.S. humanitarian aid and development organizations working abroad, the closure of their U.S. bank accounts and the inability to send wire transfers in a timely manner have a significant impact on their ability to fund critical programs in these and other countries in need.
As described in our February 2017 report on Financial Access for U.S. Nonprofits, "the human costs of NPOs' financial access difficulties and continued inaction must be recognized. When programs are delayed or cancelled because of the inability to transfer funds, peace is not brokered, children are not schooled, staff is not paid, hospitals lose power, the needs of refugees are not met and in the worst cases, people die."
Two groups of panelists examined the global refugee crisis at a World Refugee Day event at New America June 19.
The first panel looked at how refugees resettle in US cities and become integral members of their communities, as well as innovations that are helping to integrate these newcomers. The second panel examined the role of the Syrian diaspora community in assisting those affected by the crisis in their home country. A number of organizations have distributed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for Syria and its neighbors. For more information and a recording of the event, click here.
In a rare bipartisan moment, the House of Representatives approved HR 1677, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2017 on May 16, 2017. Passed in a voice vote, the bill would authorize the President to expand sanctions that apply to the Syrian government to the Central Bank of Syria and to foreign persons that 1) provide material support to the government or Central Bank, 2) transfer arms or weapons to the government and 3) are responsible for human rights abuses against Syrians, including targeting civilian infrastructure for attack or hindering access for humanitarian assistance. It provides a limited waiver process for groups doing humanitarian or stabilization or democracy promotion, stating that U.S. policy shall “fully utilize the waiver authority…to ensure that adequate humanitarian relief or support for stabilization and democracy promotion is provided to the Syrian people.” However, exceptions described below may limit the benefits of the waiver provision. The bill also requires the President to develop a strategy “to ensure humanitarian organizations can access financial services to ensure the safe and timely delivery assistance to communities in need in Syria.” As the bill is considered by the Senate, nonprofit organizations should ask for a closer analysis to ensure that any law that emerges does not inadvertently narrow space for humanitarian operations from what is currently authorized.
A new study from Chatham House and the Royal United Services Institute in the UK finds that humanitarian objectives are often stymied by counterterrorism laws designed to prevent assistance or funds going to non-state armed groups. Humanitarian Action and Non-state Armed Groups: The UK Regulatory Environment asserts that to resolve this conflict, the UK government needs to adopt a clear, unified approach to reconciling its humanitarian and counterterrorism priorities.
The report also addresses the global phenomenon of bank de-risking and its impact on humanitarian aid organizations. The report authors urge the UK government to move proactively to counter this trend and to engage in international dialogue aimed at finding solutions.